A Sneaker for Any Occasion

I have this whole bipolar, tug-o-war thing going on when it comes to men's footwear. I love to look good in a sweet pair of shoes, but sometimes looking good means sacrificing comfort. You cannot compare a pair of, say, Aldi brogues to a comfy pair of soft kicks.

But maybe, just maybe, Puma has found a happy medium with their line, "The Black Label."

Of course, anyone who's anyone these days in the world of design is "stepping up" with a high-end line of "Black Label" inspired duds. But give credit to Puma- they are no longer just an out-of-touch, old-school label still clinging to the styles that every kid I know wore in the early 80's (not that those are not back as well). According to the Puma website, the philosophy behind "The Black Label" is "an authentic sport-fashion collection featuring modern interpretations of PUMA iconic sneakers with fashion-forward shapes that fuse form and function".

Puma has built on its decades of athletic footwear experience to create some pretty stylish alternatives to a hard shoe for any occasion. Take a look at the slide show below at my picks from Puma "The Black Label". (Be sure to click the "text" icon to the left for descriptions.)

Pricing ranges from $180 to $280 and the line stays true to this range of pricing across its Black Label choices. Not exactly in the designer collaboration pricing stratosphere, but high end kicks for sure.
I picked these out for: a) style factor, b) appropriate occasion and c) I could see one reasonably getting away with these instead of a legitimate dress shoe without raising eyebrows- except the brows of envious onlookers.

And right now, you can catch a 25% Off sale on everything using coupon code CAT25 at the Puma store. Added bonus, these selections also qualify for Puma's free shipping promo (on all orders of $85 or more).


Revenge is Coming- and So Are More GM Cars

I am surprised more outlets have not picked up on the fact that the Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen official movie site has a link to lots of exclusive footage of the new Autobots. The link has been out for nearly a week on the official site. It links to a GM site here.

Granted the footage plays more like a GM ad than a teaser trailer, but it has some extended looks at many of the Autobots- both new and old that will be featured in this year's Transformers sequel. The footage is strictly of the Autobots in vehicle mode.

And here's a sneak peak at some pics of what (or who, if you will) we will see this Summer:

"The Twins"- Mudflap and Skids with a modified "performance package" Bumblebee (Chevy Camaro).

"Sideswipe"- the Corvette Stingray Concept.

"Jolt"- Chevy Volt (Followed by Ratchet and Ironhide who reappear in the sequel.)

There is also additional exclusive footage at the GM site of what appears to be the folks at Cheverolet putting together a life size Bumblebee if you access the "Select Clip" link through the "Exclusive Footage" interface. Enjoy.


Alex the Great

There's still a debate in some corners of the universe over which current NHL player is the greatest- Alex Ovechkin or Sidney Crosby (I know, silly, but some people cannot let go, right?). But take a look at this highlight and there is no question that, right now, "Alex the Great" tops the list.

And Barry Melrose is correct in his analysis- the play is made (and made more phenomenal) by Ovechkin's effort to beat the defenseman off the boards to control the puck. Take it from a guy who plays hockey- ridiculous skating skill folks.


If You Ever Wanted to Get a Hickey...

...now is the time. Hickey (Hickey Freeman's cooler sibling) is having a crazy Presidents' Day Sale now through Feb 22. You can score up to 75% off an assortment of their styles, like this update of the classic navy blazer. Check out the sale here.


A Survey That Fits

So in a previous incarnation, I was in market research. I bring this up because I need some help now with a quick survey I wrote. I am using the data to help facilitate an employment opportunity. The survey is completely confidential and regards your experience with customer service representatives.

Please participate here.

In return you will receive my lifetime gratitude absolutely FREE! Everyone receives this unique gift. It is my way of saying, "thank you". (That last part was supposed to be George Carlin-esque.)


A/V or Not A/V? It's not even a relevant question.

A lot of people try to cheat nowadays with Home Theater in a Box systems (HTIB) for the home theater setup. Not me. Personally, I am an A/V Receiver guy. The prices in the A/V market have been coming down so substantially, that you need to begin to question whether plunking down $200 to $300 on a cheap HTIB is a better value than doubling down on an A/V receiver (and separate speakers of course). And the chances are, you probably already have a set of speakers you can use if you do not feel like the added cost of a new set right now. Most A/V units now push a 7.1 surround, but your old 5.1 seakers will work just as well until the coffer you emptied for the perfect value receiver gets refilled (screw my 401k, the cookie jar is calling).

I have been waiting for the right time to buy a new A/V receiver that pumps out a truly high end HD format for a respectable price. The Onkyo TX-SR606 was the latest target of my A/V envy, despite it only moderately improving upon the game-changer that was the 505 last year. But now Sony just put themselves back into my line of sight with the new STR-DG920. Check out Cnet's video below or check out the full review after the jump.

If the Sony is not for you here's Cnet's Matthew Moskovciak with a nice roundup of the latest in the A/V category. The time to buy might be right now. And it starts and ends with A/V, not HTIB.


Reality Versus Fantasy

I have been having this moral dilemma lately. I keep looking up pictures of models on the internet and thinking to myself, I just gotta have one. The beautiful curves, sleek and sexy. The way the light in the photographs dances off unblemished surfaces, making a glow that almost speaks to you in small, little tantalizing phrases. You think about what it would be like to grab hold and just... go.

But then I see another picture. And another. And another, until finally I just become so desensitized to them and one model just starts looking like another. The problem is it is all fantasy. There is no reality to these wants. I am too sensible, too conservative to go beyond the daydream. Or am I? I think to myself, what if I did? What if I just jumped in with both feet? Threw caution to the wind? Laid all my chips on the table? What would my wife think?

Well, in truth, my wife would kill me if I ever plunked down the sorta cash it would take to buy myself one of these babies. Buy one you say? You can buy a model? Yep, sure can. Of course, I am talking about the Lexus IS F, the Nissan GT-R, and the Infiniti G37. OH! You thought...? Oh, well, come on man, this site is PG-13 at worst. (Get your head out of the gutter.)

So, with all that fantasizing about luxury sports sedans and coupes, I had to get back to reality. Sure, I love those models I mentioned, but the reality of the situation is I am not about to plunk down 70 G's or more to live out my fantasy. Heck, I do not even want to go the "cheap" route- the G37- and drop $35K. So what's a man to do?

Well, I just caught site of Mazda's re-do for the 2010 Mazda3. And while it is not in the class of those luxury models I mentioned above, it's no "cheap thrill" either. By that I mean it is not some flimsy, economy car, but rather it is a sweet looking ride with a low price tag. No, you don't get 200+hp. No, you do not get AWD. And you certainly do not get the, cough, "prestige" of a luxury label.

But if looks are your thing, saving your pennies are your thing, and looking proudly at a Lexus or Infiniti owner when you paid half what they did for, essentially, 4 wheels and a comfy seat, then maybe, just maybe the Mazda3 for 2010 is for you. And it gets over 20mpg- for my daily commute, that makes it gold. Let's look at what this little beauty does have (courtesy of MotorAuthority.com):

The new Mazda3 will initially be launched with two new engines, a 148hp 2.0L four-cylinder with 135lb-ft of torque and a 167hp 2.5L unit with 168lb-ft of torque. Both engines employ advanced electronic throttle actuation. Mazda’s exclusive torque base control technology provides a highly linear acceleration response to every change of throttle pedal pressure.

Some premium features of the car not normally found in this segment include optional self-leveling bi-xenon headlamps, a multi-function display, satnav, electronically adjustable seats with memory functions, an ambient lighting system, dual-zone air conditioning, a 10-speaker Bose stereo, Bluetooth connectivity, iPod connection and Sirius satellite radio. Other options include rain-sensing wipers, heated side mirrors, leather upholstery, and heated seats.

So, luxury features in a value vehicle. Wow, a car company actually took notice of its potential buyers and realized there's a shift in perceived value these days (hello economic downturn). Now, the best part- early indicators are showing only moderate price increases- figure around $17,000 for a well-equipped 3i, heading up to close to $25,000 for a fully loaded "3s Grand Touring" (courtesy, Automobile Magazine). And here's Mazda's full press release from its launch around the L.A. Auto Show.

If you ask me, reality just trumped those models from my fantasy.

Take away the manufacturer's emlbem and name. Does this car look like a player to you? Damn straight.


The Best Dressed Real Man in America

According to Esquire magazine, his name is Kenyatte (ken-Yah-tuh) Nelson. He's a stylish cat living in Cincinnati, OH and is employed as a Brand Manager at Proctor & Gamble (ask him about NNE).

Kenyatte also has his own blog and he's about to leave his beta stage and go gold. Check him out at Tweed and Velvet. Anyone who can rock an orange corduroy blazer like T&V* does, deserves such praise.

*Kenyatte- feel free to copyright the "T&V" nickname I bestowed on you.

The Problem with Button-down Shirts

Something I have touched on before- and probably will again- is the contrast between the guy who is dressed well versus the guy who is stylish. Take my opinion on blazer and shirt cuffs, for example.

Look, fellas, I know we are not all of the barrel chest, slim waist mold- chiseled and strapping, or even the slim and fit models with 30-inch waists and shoulders practically just as narrow. But please understand that another example of poor style, again to do with shirts, is the excess material yielded by a traditional button-down shirt (often called "Classic Fit").

Unless you are literally filling out every last stitch of your "Classic Fit" shirt, please man, for the love of your pants (that are under duress from the constant tucking in by the way), trim that shirt! Buy a "Fitted" shirt (sometimes called "Athletic Fit"). The bonus? It also makes you look trimmer! Observe a simple diagram.

That's all it takes to accomplish the following:
  • A better fitting shirt with less material hanging out of your pants.
  • A slimmer silhouette.
  • Less abuse on your pants (no more constant re-tucking, no more puffy waist-lines or bulk around your hip area).
  • You can wear layers. A slim-fitting v-neck sweater or cardigan over a slim-fitting button-down, even together under a blazer or suit jacket. Now you're starting to resemble someone who cares a little instead of that guy from the office Christmas party who looks like Santa in his red cable knit sweater and "Classic Fit" Oxford that adds about 20 pounds to his frame
Again- being stylish versus being well-dressed (or not so well-dressed in this case) is all about the details. In this case, like the description says, it is all about "fit". I'll save the lecture about shirt sizing (sleeve length/neck width) for another time. Class dismissed.


Wolverine Boots- Still Made in USA*

*Well some of them anyway- like the Fall collection's take on Wolverine's original 1000-mile boot. First picked up here by "A Continuous Lean", and reiterated by the boys at Material Interest (men.style.com's bloggers), these boots look sweet.

I am guessing price is still TBD, but Wolvies these days run reasonably between $100 and $200, so a "Heritage Collection" special in the Fall should fetch, I'd safely say $300 and up. Not bad for a quality pair of boots that will be made in the USA. Not a bad way to help the home front bust out of the economic slump.


I Call B.S.- a Contrast in Brand Management

OMEGA's backing of Michael Phelps after Phelps' "exposure" in a British paper is further proof that idiots run these companies- you know, in case the disintegration of the economy by corporate big wigs was not proof enough.

It is also a fascinating case study for brand managers everywhere. Call it, "A Tale of Two Press Releases". The article at MSNBC.com includes press statements from 2 of Phelps' big sponsors- Speedo and OMEGA. It is not even so much that these companies went out their way to back Phelps. I would certainly expect them to back one of their biggest celebrity athletes/horses- sure. There's too much revenue at stake. Phelps is (was) a guy who's marketability you could bank on for 4 more years leading up to the 2012 Olympics; How many endorsers of any caliber can guarantee a shelf life that is that long (just ask Tom Brady, any stop on the PGA Tour or, hell, even Mike Vick)?

But, nothing is guaranteed. Phelps was as close as it comes, until he decided to act like his meager 23 years instead of being, well you know, the greatest Olympic athlete of all time.
It's a gamble Speedo and OMEGA are willing to take- a calculated one I am sure. But in my opinion, one company's P.R. is done well and the other is completely ill-advised. How so? Well, let's see.

Speedo has probably a bigger stake in the game than OMEGA based simply on product field (swimsuits versus luxury watches) and relevant endorsers; Speedo plays it close to the vest with athletes who use their product to perform, such as Phelps and Italy's Philippo Magnini. OMEGA can reach across pop culture to a variety of what they call "ambassadors" to hock their wares:
Cindy Crawford, Nicole Kidman, Zhang Ziyi, James Bond, Eugene Cernan, George Clooney, Sergio Garcia, and Michael Schumacher to name a few.

So how does this factor in the decision to issue a press release supporting Phelps? Simple. One can. One should. Speedo should endorse Phelps because he is the absolute in terms of a testimonial they can or will ever find (have you seen those Olympic swimsuits?). OMEGA can support Phelps because he associates with a niche of their products nicely (water resistant watches).

But what I am perplexed by with OMEGA is their PR statement passing off guilt on Phelps as if it does not exist (a "non-issue" they call it) simply because he did it in his "private life" and not, one supposes, as "Michael Phelps- OMEGA Ambassador".
(I won't begin to speculate on the brand of watch caught on Phelps' wrist in the damning photo.) Contrastingly, Speedo's statement in the same article above, is much more careful about it's intent. In their statement, they say, ""Michael Phelps is a valued member of the Speedo team and a great champion. We will do all that we can to support him and his family."

None of that "Case closed," business like OMEGA. None of the arrogance. None of the brash dismissal of a young's man's indecent behavior. Simply put, Speedo does it better than OMEGA. Intelligent, honest... human. It is obvious which of these companies actually is concerned with both the man and the image- the reality and the perception that is Michael Phelps, as well as the bottom dollar.

The difference is simply that Speedo understood better that the reality of the situation called for a delicate hand and not the broad stroke carelessly brandished about like OMEGA.
To me, that is the difference between branding your product well and taking a misstep in your marketing. Whether it impacts either company positively OR negatively (and how extensively), remains to be seen. But it does give one insight as to who might be better to work with either as a marketing partner or even as an employer. Judgement call? Maybe. But only time will tell the verdict.

Revenge Is Coming

So I guess there was some football game on last night and I happened to be passively watching- shocking I know. Even more shocking was the fact that there was a commercial that came on during the game (wow!) and that I did not fast forward through it with my DVR (bigger wow!). But it featured the movie trailer for "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" so I will forgive myself for watching (the commercial). You can also download the HD version here.